Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hot Ideas Were on the Bayou for the 2017 CCA Institute

[caption id="attachment_2728" align="alignright" width="375"] Editor/Communications Specialist Talisa Wager and Creative Services Assistant Danny Andrews.[/caption]

Earlier this month, my coworker Danny Andrews and I ventured down to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the annual Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA) Institute. While there, we participated in educational workshops, networked with other communicators from the cooperative world, enjoyed the sights and tastes of Baton Rouge, and tried to stay indoors as much as possible. (Let’s just say the humidity was a bit much for two Midwesterners.)

This was my third year attending CCA Institute. Why do I keep going back? Because every year I come away with new skills I can apply at work, a refreshed perspective on why I enjoy working in communications, and new network connections I can reach out to. The opportunity to travel to different cities and enjoy new sights is a bonus!

[caption id="attachment_2754" align="alignleft" width="250"] Merger postcard series for CFS.[/caption]

One honor I had while attending this year’s institute was accepting two awards on behalf of VistaComm. I’m proud to say our team worked hard to earn first place website and third place in direct mail. The website that received first place was NuWay Cooperative. And in the direct mail category, we were recognized for our work on a merger postcard series for CFS. I’m very proud of our talented team for being acknowledged by a group of communicators that are the best of the best.

In conclusion, this year’s CCA Institute did not disappoint. The sessions were educational, there was hands-on learning, socializing, and many opportunities to enjoy the “spicy” culture Baton Rouge offers. Perhaps, we’ll “saddle on up” and head to the Lone Star State for the 2018 Institute in Fort Worth!

 

[caption id="attachment_2733" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Baton Rouge riverfront at night.[/caption]

See More Here: Hot Ideas Were on the Bayou for the 2017 CCA Institute

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Facebook Pixel: If You’re Not Using It, You’re Doing It Wrong!

Why should the Facebook pixel be an essential part of your online advertising and marketing? To answer this question, you must first understand what the Facebook pixel is and how it can impact your online advertising.

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It is surprising, in the age we live in, how few marketers I talk to are implementing this tool in their marketing mix. Facebook has over 1.2 billion active users each day. Facebook captures loads of data about your customers, where they live, what they like, their career, what they follow and much more. This data combined with the Facebook pixel allows you to target your advertising better. Because of this, I want to start with the basics and walk you through some of the ways you can implement the Facebook pixel to create higher converting ad campaigns that better target your customers and their interests.

What is the Facebook pixel?

Pixels are found across most advertising platforms. They are used to drop a cookie onto a visitor's browser when they come to your website so that you can advertise to them later. In this regard, if you are spending money on pay-per-click advertising and not using the pixel you are not maximizing your budget. The pixel allows you to retarget website users based on behavior, optimize ad performance, and track leads and conversions on your site from Facebook ads.

To set up the Facebook pixel, you need to have a Facebook Ad Manager account. If you don’t already have this, you’ll need to set one up.

Once you have your Ad Manager account, you can set up your Facebook pixel. Open your Ads Manager in the main menu and click on “Pixels” under the “Assets” menu.

Facebook Pixel Setup under Assets

You will then be prompted to either generate the code to place on the website or use a tag manager to place this code.

Install your Facebook pixel

Depending on how your website is set up and the platform you are using, this step will vary. For many, simply work with your developer to follow the steps outlined in the Facebook instructions. HINT: Enabling “advanced matching” allows you to identify similar audiences on Facebook based on website users email or phone number they may enter during registration or checkout

Install Your Facebook Pixel Code

 

Once the code is placed on your site, verify everything is working by checking the status of your pixel with the Pixel Helper.

Check your Facebook pixel status using Pixel Helper

Once you have the pixel in place and have verified it’s working, there are three ways you can use the Facebook pixels to maximize your Facebook ad campaigns.

1. Custom audiences and retargeting

Create Facebook Audiences

When creating a new audience, the first thing you do is select "Create a Custom Audience". The Facebook pixel allows you to identify and advertise to audiences that have visited your website. The base option allows you to target all visitors to your website, but there are many customizations to choose from to create multiple audiences.

Create a Custom Audience in Facebook

You can choose to target based on certain pages visited or how long it’s been since they visited your site. You can even target based on what page they visited. For instance, if you have an audience who completed a request-for-info form and doesn’t complete a purchase, you can serve a different ad to that group. This allows you to serve dynamic ads to audiences based on where they are at in your sales process.

Set Custom Audiences based on web pages viewed

Once you have identified your audiences for retargeting, it is very easy to create look-alike audiences. Facebook will match other targets that have similar interests to those that have visited your site already. This allows you to scale your advertising to a broader audience based on which campaigns and audiences have already proved successful.

Create Facebook lookalike audience

2. Conversion and lead tracking

One of the most useful features of the Facebook Pixel is in tracking actions through custom conversions.

Set up custom conversion in Ads Manager

Through the pixel, you can track specific actions and tie them back to your Facebook ad campaigns. This allows you to know how many sales, or how many new lead signups were generated from these campaigns or even specific ads.

Create your custom conversion

When creating your custom conversion, you want to tie the conversion to the success of an action. Such as a thank-you page on your website that follows a contact submission, or you can even tie the conversion to a specific event such as a click to call from a mobile phone.

Facebook custom conversion by event

After you select the specific URL or tracking event from the drop-down menu, you will need to select what category this conversion falls into. This is for your classification, so just make the selection that makes the most sense to you.

create custom conversion based on URL

Once this is set, you can name your custom conversion in the following screen and assign a dollar value to it. If you don’t have a monetary value to assign you do not have to enter this, but if there is a purchase tied to the conversion I would highly recommend doing so. This will allow you to better assess your return on the ad spend.

Name your Facebook Custom Conversion

To begin tracking your conversions, check “track all conversions” on your ad campaigns and Facebook will handle the rest.

Track all conversion in Facebook

Viewing the conversions does get a little more complicated, as Facebook doesn’t put this in plain sight. From your Ads Manager screen, select the “columns” drop down and go to “Customize Columns.”

Custome columns in Facebook to view conversions

From here, you can search for the name of your custom conversion and view the number of conversions, the cost of those conversions and (if you assigned a dollar value) the value of those conversions.

Search for your custom conversion to display in columns

3. Optimizing your campaigns

By setting up your custom conversions, Facebook can help you optimize your campaigns. Whenever you create a new campaign, Facebook will ask you what your marketing objective is. You will almost always select the conversions option.

Optimize Facebook campaigns for conversions

By selecting this option, Facebook will recognize users that are converting based on the custom conversions you set up (such as a sign-up thank you page). Facebook will then optimize your campaign for other people who are most like those that have already converted on your site.

That’s a wrap! You should now have a better understanding of how to utilize the Facebook pixel to increase the effectiveness of your Facebook advertising. From reading this, I hope you see how crucial it is to implement this to make your ad dollars effective.

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Source Here: The Facebook Pixel: If You’re Not Using It, You’re Doing It Wrong!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Stay Competitive: 4 Game Strategies to Play Like Pac-Man

A late spring snow storm. Rain for the whole month of April. Finally, warmer weather and May breezes. The soil dries out. OK, the crops are in—bring back that rain. Summer storms, stay away.

No matter what seasonal agricultural conditions you face, as a producer, you’ve got to be able to change strategies and pivot at a moment’s notice. Things don’t always go as planned when your business depends so much on Mother Nature.

Julie Deering in her December 2016 article for Seed World magazine likens operating in today’s agribusiness circles to playing a game of Pac-Man. Remember Pac-Man? You’ve got to be in constant motion searching for the next move to put you ahead in the game. Thinking fast. Staying away from an enemy who could gobble you up – these are KEY!

Released in 1980, Pac-Man was the best-selling arcade game in North America. It grossed more than $1 billion in quarters within a year.

It’s not only the individual “little guy” who must stay on his toes. If you’re a producer who’s joined forces with other producers in a cooperative, the terms merger, acquisition, consolidation, joint venture are very much part of your vocabulary, and happening all around you. Re-structuring the way you do business is not necessarily bad — but always an adjustment — in order to stay in the ag game.

Over the past 4 decades, the number of co-ops in the county has dropped from 6,445 to about 2,100, and the pace of consolidation is accelerating.

So, IS there an answer to “staying in the game” or even WINNING! For valuable tips to consider, I return once again to the Seed World feature where Deering, following her expert research, sites four strategies. You may have heard them all before, but they are truly worth repeating—over and over again.

STRATEGY #1:
Focus on Your Customer and his "Pain Point"

If you’re a small- to medium-sized individual producer, you’ve got to know your end-user—the consumer who will give you the best possible chance of making a profit in a given year. You can’t plant everything you’ve ever wanted to grow or feed and market every live food source there is. You’ve got to focus—determine your niche products and go big with just a few—the few that are in most demand by your end-user.

For agribusinesses, this means you’ve got to know your target audience (customers) as well as you know your own family. In the movie classic Field of Dreams, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella follows a voice no one else can hear with memorable results. Among the messages he receives: “Ease his pain.” Do you know your customers’ pain points? What keeps them up at night? The agribusiness that does the best job of making life easier for customers will likely gain more of them. Word travels fast in the country. 

STRATEGY #2:
BE READY TO CHANGE

In any business, you must be forever conscious that failure can happen. Be prepared to FAIL FAST. What do I mean by FAIL FAST?

PIVOT. Pam Moore of Marketing Nutz calls pivoting the art of recognizing that the pursuit of a specific idea, direction or product—in which you’ve invested significant time, money and energy—is no longer the correct path to follow.

In Western Kansas on April 30, 2017, a rare spring snow storm wiped out 40% of the wheat crop in the state. But after a quick melt and dry-out, the hearty plainsmen in this area were out making plans to till, then plant the damaged fields with milo — a crop that could still make them a good profit in 2017. That’s a pivot!

“Be agile,” says Moore. “Develop processes that reward quick decision-making. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Learn to FAIL FAST and learn from each success and failure along the way.”

STRATEGY #3:
DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

As a small- to medium-sized agribusiness, you’ve got to make yourself stand out by being different from your competition. This is sometimes quite hard to come up with when your annual process seems so cut and dried: planting — irrigating — pest and weed controlling — harvesting — moving — storing — etc.

Troy Schroeder, a management consultant with Clutch Performance, Inc., says business success that’s sustainable is all about the customer experience, and making sure that every function of your organization is based on customer-first thinking:

  • Better customer service
  • Added value for your customers
  • More knowledge
  • Better delivery
  • Tailored sales approach based on specific customer needs
  • Better application of your products
  • Ease-of-use of your products that’s better than anyone else

What can you do better than your competitors?

STRATEGY #4:
LEVERAGE BIG DATA

Analytics. Agricultural consultant, Jim Thrift, is convinced that effective data management will drive the future of agribusiness. He says, “A smart person with the most information wins!” He feels that agribusinesses that can transform complex data into actionable information can make effective business decisions.

Forward-thinking agribusinesses are getting onboard with this strategy. A recent survey reveals that 73 percent of companies have invested, or plan to invest in big data during the next two years—a number that has risen from 64 percent in 2013. Business investment in analytics is increasing at an average annual rate of almost 30 percent.

This strategy requires a real commitment. Once you start collecting relevant data from within the ag industry you must constantly analyze what you’ve got to see if your tactics are holding up and paying off as you would like. You’ll be making numerous tweaks along the way—that’s just how it works!

In conclusion, everyone needs planning and strategy. I hope these four I found in my reading will find a place in your marketing plan, whether you are a farm operator or a small- to medium-sized agribusiness. Just be smart, agile, reactive and ready to play the game — like Pac-Man!

Resource: How to Power Ahead in a Competitive World, Seed World, December 2016.

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Source Here: Stay Competitive: 4 Game Strategies to Play Like Pac-Man

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Strategic Planning? 10 Tips to Improve Your Outcome

Whether you’re refining your plans, charting an entirely new course or overhauling your brand, strategic planning is an essential step in the life cycle of a successful business. Some tackle the process on their own, while many bring in planning experts to facilitate the process. In either case, here are 10 steps you should take to prepare your team and achieve the best results from the time and resources invested.

1. Invest in the front end

Your team must believe in the process, understand the outcomes you hope to achieve and be prepared to contribute. Meeting with your team members before you begin the formal planning process will help get everyone on the same page and prepare them to bring their expertise to the table.

2. Research

Research your industry to find common market trends you want to identify with or avoid. Consider your company’s strength and the particular industry niche you occupy. Is this where you want to reside in the future?

3. Know your target audience

Who are you trying to reach? Your marketing messages need to be crafted to suit your audience’s specific needs for maximum impact.

4. Have an honest perspective of your company’s current brand image

You know how you want your company to be perceived, but is that the image held by employees, current customers and prospects? Don’t assume you know the answer—ask representatives from those three groups how they perceive you. Does your brand messaging need to be adjusted, or does your brand need to be completely repositioned?

5. Be willing to share ideas

There is no such thing as a bad idea when you’re working through the planning process. Everyone involved should be willing to share their ideas—and this should be a safe environment in which to do that.

6. Set some intermediate deadlines

Have a realistic picture of when you want assignments completed. Know who has tasks to accomplish and be prepared to keep them on schedule. Continue to stress the importance of this process, and reflect it by scheduling process assignments on equal footing with client-related work.

7. Use examples

Find and share examples of marketing pieces, campaigns, slogans, positioning statements and other similar materials that you find appealing. Be ready to explain why you like them. This is particularly important when working with an outside firm, but is also helpful in internal discussions. Your customers and prospects have a wide range of tastes, and those should be reflected in your process as well.

8. Keep an open mind

Refer to #7. Because you have a variety of personalities (hopefully) on your team, some of the ideas presented may seem “outside the box” to you. This will be particularly true if you’ve brought in an expert. Don’t settle for comfortable solutions that keep you doing what you’ve always done. After all, you’re looking for solutions that will set you apart from your competition.

9. Think forward

Your goal is to grow your business, so be prepared to think “down the road.” You’re working on a roadmap to navigate from where you are to where you want to be.

10. Trust the experts

Finally, if you’ve brought in a specialist to help with your planning process, you did it for a reason. This is what they do best. Trust their input and conclusions.


VistaComm has participated and facilitated the planning process for many clients as they sought to grow their business and strengthen their brand. If you’re looking for an expert partner in your strategic planning process, contact us to find out how we can help.

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Article Source Here: Strategic Planning? 10 Tips to Improve Your Outcome

Thursday, May 18, 2017

10 Great Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website

Research shows that when business owners are asked what they’d like most, they respond first: More customers. Following in close second: Drive more traffic to my website.

Well, I’d like to summarize here what I’ve learned about #2: Driving traffic to your site, because, to me, it’s the #1 way to gain more customers—the #1 “want most.”

Who is your audience?

The first step in marketing in any medium—including online and digital—is KNOW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE. Who are you talking to and trying to appeal to? What makes them tick? What do they care about? And who are their friends and business associates?

Give your audience “good stuff.”

Did you know that today there are 164 million blogs online? BUT 71% of these get fewer than 5,000 visitors per month. What’s the problem? CONTENT. If you’re not putting good information out there that your audience cares about and wants to read, they’ll just click on by.

Download website optimization ebookSo, what is good content? It’s news, data, statistics and facts that position you as an expert in your field—someone people want to buy from. It’s reliable information that generates online traffic, leads and sales. It’s not just great content, but the right content that readers want to share with their business associates. And can you guess what happens next? YOUR website traffic grows because of all these new visitors. WIN! WIN!

Once you know your audience and the information they’re looking for, it’s time to dive in and start creating the great content that positions you as the expert.

Now, here are my favorite 10 ways to drive traffic to your website using that great content you created.

1. Start blogging and never stop!

I just want to emphasize this one more time. Blogging works. It does drive traffic to your website. Wordstream.com recently ran an experiment and increased their blogging from twice per week to over 10 posts per week. The result was a 300 percent growth in traffic in just two months. Get EVERYONE in your organization writing blogs and supplying ideas for content.

2. Vary the length and format of your content.

Despite what some would have you believe, there’s no secret recipe for online content. That’s why it’s important to mix it up, trying different lengths and formats to appeal to different kinds of readers. Use video, infographics, news posts, graphs and data, shorter and longer pieces to keep your readers attentive and coming back.

3. Grab ‘em with your headlines.

Without a great headline, even the best blog post will go unread. Master the art of headline writing. The best writers often write more than 20 different headlines before finally settling on the one that will drive the most traffic, so think carefully about your headline before you post.

4. Optimize, optimize!

SEO is not dead. Optimizing your content for search engines is still valuable. Are you creating internal links to new content? Optimizing for on-page SEO doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and it could help boost traffic to your site. 

Drive traffic to your webiste using SEO

5. Attract visitors through advertising.

Paid search, social media advertising and display advertising are all excellent ways of building your brand and getting your site in front of people. Consider your advertising objectives. Do you just want more traffic, or are you looking to increase conversions, too? Each paid channel has its pros and cons. If you’re hoping for more sales as traffic to your site increases, you’ll need to focus on particular keywords in your search strategies.

6. Don’t forget email.

Good ole email. Traditional, yes, but still a powerful marketing tool. You’d be surprised that even a simple email blast can cause an uptick in your online traffic. Word of caution: Avoid relentless emails about every single thing that’s new at your business. Email today must be targeted and relevant. Send a friendly, appropriate email reminder to those already enjoying or familiar with your products and services—chances are much greater for them to engage instead of filtering you to spam or opting out.

7. Make sure your site is responsive.

Today, mobile-friendly sites are a necessity! Don’t lose sight of this. Make sure your visitors can access your site from whatever device they’re holding in their hands. And, if you force upon them an uncomfortable experience—pinching and scrolling around your site—they’ll go elsewhere. Make your website accessible and easily viewable across a range of devices, including smaller smartphones.

responsive website design

8. Research your competition.

Find out what people are reading (and talking about), and emulate that type of content to bring traffic to your website. There is special software that gives you an at-a-glance view of what content is popular with readers. Find out what your competition is putting out there.

9. Make sure your site is fast.

When was the last time you waited 10 or 15 seconds for a webpage to load? Not worth it, is it? If your site takes forever to load, your reader will move on. Kissmetrics has an excellent article showing how load time affects your bottom line. Your website pages need to be technically optimized. This means you need to check your image file sizes, the structure of your pages, and more. The faster your site loads, the better.

10. Examine your analytics data.

Google Analytics is an invaluable source of data for any company with a website. And you really DO need it! The information it gathers—from your most popular pages and visitor demographics to when and where your site traffic is coming from—is invaluable to your efforts to stay up-to-date with your promotional and content strategies. Pay attention to what its telling you and make adjustments.


Want to read more about this topic and others related to growing your business online? Download our free e-book about growing your agribusiness with a hard-working website. Give VistaComm a call to discuss elevating your presence online today.

Contact us today

Original Post Here: 10 Great Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Perfecting Your On-Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

As I begin this blog, I’m reminded of my days teaching high school English. Addressing my sophomore composition class. Desperately trying to remember all the “tips” I learned in college education classes. A memorable theory comes to mind: “Assume they know nothing!”

Pretty good advice, actually. Advice I’ll take to heart as I begin this little tutorial on Perfecting Your On-Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO). (Whew! A real mouthful!) This subject can be overwhelming and complicated, so I’m going to start at the beginning with the simplest of concepts—keywords—and hope you’re not offended by the elementary approach.

What are keywords?

When you sit down at your computer to find information on a topic of interest, you go to one of the many search engines—Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.—and type into a search box words or phrases you hope will connect you to the information you want. You receive particular results because they’re related to the words you typed in the box. These keywords triggered the information you were looking for.

OK. You already knew this! Let’s move on . . .

Why are keywords important to your business?

Now, we’re going to switch hats. You’re no longer searching for information online. You—or your company—are the one being searched for. It’s very important to the success of your business that searchers can find you. By using the right keywords within the content on your website, you ensure that potential customers can find you when they start looking.

Download website optimization ebookPretty simple explanation, and you might have known this, too. Stepping it up a little . . .

To optimize means to improve, enhance, elevate or boost.

I’ll bet you can guess what Search Engine Optimization means now—or you might already know. It’s using the BEST keywords in all the RIGHT PLACES so search engines will automatically move your site to the top of the list when an online user is looking for you.

Search engines play a primary role in this whole process as they rank your websites. In addition, they are always working to improve site-ranking RULES they use in order to improve their user experience. With an all-out effort, you can learn these site-ranking rules and USE them to optimize your website.

On-Page SEOHere are the on-page SEO rules that search engines and their users love.

  1. Choose a rich, target keyword.
  2. Use a shorter URL, one that includes your target keyword.
  3. Start your title with your keyword.
  4. Ensure meta tags for pages are completed and contain keywords.
  5. Add modifiers—best, valuable, top—to your target keyword.
  6. Use header tags and include your target keyword in at least one of your subheads.
  7. Be sure images contain alt tags—be sure to include keywords.
  8. Use outbound links to related pages on other websites.
  9. Insert two to three internal links to other areas of your website.
  10. Increase your page speed – visitors won’t wait more than four seconds for your site to load.
  11. Include the social share signals for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.
  12. Post long content—“length is strength” for a higher ranking.
  13. Engaging content—not only long content, but engaging content keeps people reading.
  14. Use video, great images, infographics on your website to engage the visitor and increase the time they spend on your site.

Want to read more about this topic and others related to growing your business online? Download our free e-book about growing your agribusiness with a hard-working website. Give VistaComm a call to discuss elevating your presence online today.

Contact us today

Resource: backlinko.com

Read More Here: Perfecting Your On-Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Friday, May 5, 2017

10 Ways to Avoid Web Design Disaster

Developing a website design that is both visually stunning and effective at meeting business objectives is no small feat. It requires a productive collaboration between client and web design team, with both playing a vital role in the outcome. Here are 10 ways you can improve this partnership to ensure a positive—and business effective—outcome.

1. Focus on problems, not solutions.

Yes, that sounds wrong. But if you want to get the most from your designer, that is where your focus needs to be. For example, if you are worried that the color choices won’t sit well with your audience, tell your designer—along with the reason for your concern. Then let the designer come up with a solution. In that scenario, both of you are playing to your strengths—you are employing your knowledge of your business and audience, and your designer is utilizing creativity and knowledge of the medium.web design layout

2. Remember: Your web design should focus on user needs and business objectives.

Don’t get bogged down in the details of the design. It’s the designer’s job to worry about the details. Instead, ask yourself two questions. How will users respond to this design? Will it meet my business objectives?

3. Always ask, “Why?”

When people tell you what they think of the design, always ask them why they feel the way they do. Why don’t they like the color? Why do they think the logo should be made bigger? Ask yourself the same questions. Often there are underlying reasons for a reaction towards a design. Giving the designer more than “I just don’t like it” will help find the most appropriate solution. Which leads us to our next point.

web design consult

4. Recognize your personal bias.

Design is very subjective. We all have our opinion when it comes to design—a mental list of images, colors and combinations that we like (or hate). And so does your boss. At the end of the day, it’s not about whether you (or your boss) like the design. The question is, will the prospective user like it?

5. If in doubt (or even if you’re sure), test.

 Let’s revisit personal bias. If you find yourself unsure about the design direction or disagreeing, test the design. And if you love the way things are going, test the design. There are loads of ways you can get feedback from a bigger group of people and none of them need to be time consuming or expensive. Testing the design will give you the confidence, and some hard evidence, that things are heading in the right direction. This blog by Kissmetrics goes in-depth about the way s you can test a website design prior to launch.

6. In the digital world, nothing is permanent.

Unlike the print medium, the web can be changed at any time. Making a design decision doesn’t have to be a life or death choice. If something goes live and users don’t approve, it can be altered with relative ease.

website designer's desk

7. Listen to the research.

Designing a website is not the same as producing a piece of art. There is a considerable amount of science and psychology behind the discipline of digital development, as well as a steady stream of research. Where possible, build on best practices and avoid working from hunches or personal preference.

8. Resist the urge to copy.

There is nothing wrong with looking at your competition, or any other website, for inspiration. In fact, we encourage it. However, blindly following what other people do is usually a mistake.  Your business, goals, customers and prospects are different.  Design a site that reflects who you are, what you want to say and how you plan to do business. Designing a “me-too” site just puts you one step behind.

9. Context is everything. Always consider it.

You and your design team will spend hours discussing the right approach for your website. As a result, you will have a firm grasp of why certain decisions have been made. The danger comes when you present work to colleagues who don’t share that knowledge. Make sure you thoroughly brief anyone viewing the design for the first time so they know the rationale behind what they are seeing.

10. Choose your decision-makers wisely

Because design is subjective, showing it to too many people can muddy the decision-making process. Instead, keep the number of people involved to a select few. Then, canvas their opinions individually to avoid the dreaded “design by committee.”


If you’re looking for a talented web design team, someone to guide you through the process, or both, that’s what we do at VistaComm. We provide next-level marketing services for agribusinesses. Contact us at to learn more.

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Article Source Here: 10 Ways to Avoid Web Design Disaster

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Perdue Passes Through Confirmation Process

When the U.S. Senate confirmed a new Secretary of Agriculture today it affirmed the nomination of a former governor, a veterinarian, an agribusiness entrepreneur…and a pilot. As a young man, Sonny Perdue flew a crop duster and, after college but prior to earning his DVM, served as an Air Force pilot.

George Ervin Perdue III still flies, and he qualified as a helicopter pilot while serving as governor of Georgia from 2002 to 2011. He’s been called Sonny since his childhood on a diversified Georgia crop and dairy farm and will be sworn in as ag secretary using the nickname.

[caption id="attachment_2492" align="alignright" width="200"]Sonny_Perdue Sonny Perdue giving a press conference in Montevideo, Uraguay. Photo Credit: US Embassy in Uraguay[/caption]

If Sonny Perdue approaches his new duties in the same way he fulfilled his responsibilities as Georgia governor, expect him to emphasize steps that make the USDA run like a well-maintained combine. Before he left the governor’s office, Perdue told reporters he’d want to be remembered not for some monumental accomplishment but for “making government work.”

Perdue’s record as governor is strong on trade. He established Georgia’s international trade office in Beijing. During his administration, traffic at the port of Savannah increased from 24th busiest in international shipments to 6th. Sonny Perdue led trade delegations to Cuba (a major consumer of Georgia’s poultry) and to South America.

After leaving office, Perdue and cousin David Perdue (a former Dollar General Stores CEO) founded Perdue Partners, an Atlanta company that facilitates exports through “trading, partnerships, consulting services and strategic acquisitions.” (David Perdue was elected to the Senate in 2014 and serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee.) Sonny Perdue’s record on trade could resonate with legislators who initially hoped for a Midwestern nominee.

The last three ag secretaries were from Iowa, North Dakota and Nebraska. As a result, farm policy has focused on corn and soybeans. Southerners would prefer subsidy programs more favorable to rice and cotton. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse said he wants to help Perdue understand “the unique interests of Midwest agriculture.”

Nevertheless, Republican leaders from the Midwest express optimism about working with Perdue. Backers point to his time on the board of the National Grain and Feed Association and as managing partner of AGrowStar, which operates elevators in Georgia and South Carolina. According to North Dakota’s Senator Hoeven, who met Perdue when they were both governors of their respective states, says “he knows how to work with everybody.”

Article Source Here: Perdue Passes Through Confirmation Process

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Is Your Digital Marketing Hitting the Mark? This checklist can help.

Effective digital marketing is a moving target. The speed of change presents an ongoing challenge to every business serious about maximizing their digital presence and impact. Google, for example, continues to change how they present search results—both paid and organic.

The transition to mobile use in the digital arena is rapidly accelerating. Mobile use now accounts for almost two out of every three digital media minutes, according to a 2016 comScore study. This opens up a whole set of considerations that didn’t exist when desktop computers dominated the digital landscape.

So…how can you increase your digital marketing effectiveness in the coming year? We’re offering this basic checklist as both a place to start the planning process and a way to assess your progress.


Digital Marketing Checklist

Digital marketing checklistStart with your websiteDownload website optimization ebook

  • How did your site perform last year? The better question may be, do you know how to determine site performance?
  • Pretend your site isn’t your site. Try to imagine you’re a first-time visitor and assess how easily you can find your way around. Better yet, recruit a friend or family member—someone who truly is a first-time visitor—and get their feedback.
  • View your site on a tablet or phone. Is it mobile-friendly? If not, what’s your plan to make that transition?
  • What are your competitors doing? Did you like their content? What can you learn from what they are doing—and what do you want to avoid? Again, get input from a third-party visitor.

Consider your content

  • Are you blogging? If so, are your blogs scheduled or created as an afterthought? Do the messages support your overall marketing goals, and do they provide true value to your target audience?
  • Is your content professionally written, or does it fall to the team member who draws the short straw? Do all content pieces (online and offline and external sites) include intelligent, meaningful Calls to Action?
  • Is there a comprehensive content strategy? If not, take the first step and set up an editorial calendar and writing schedule.
  • Are you repurposing your best content to use in multiple channels—web, print, e-news and white papers, for example?

Are you social?

  • Do you have a plan for social media marketing? Is your social media presence the responsibility of a dedicated individual on your staff?
  • Is the content on your social platforms consistent with your overall marketing emphasis and branding, or is it a lonely island?
  • Do you know how to analyze your metrics to determine engagement trends?

Can they find you?

  • Do you have a working knowledge of SEO concepts, or is it a bit of a mystery?
  • If the answer is yes, are you analyzing search phrases that bring traffic to your site? Are you developing web content to connect with these interests?
  • Are you maximizing key SEO items in each blog post?

You’ve got mail

  • Is your email capture strategy growing your list?
  • How was your email marketing performance for opens and clicks?
  • Were you communicating regularly? Are you using your best repurposed content to increase your impact?

These are basic questions that will help point you in the right direction, and really just the tip of the iceberg. They may also reveal some areas in your digital plan that you have overlooked or underrepresented. If you need additional guidance, have questions or believe a fresh perspective would be helpful, contact us. This is what we do every day.

Contact us today

Read More Here: Is Your Digital Marketing Hitting the Mark? This checklist can help.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

3 Ways Employees Can Help Protect Your Brand—Compliments of United Airlines

Sometimes, the best way to learn what to do is by observing what not to do. Case in point:

United Airlines overbooked a flight. Offered passengers $800 travel vouchers to get off the plane and take another flight. Not enough people took the bait, so a passenger was forcibly removed from the plane. The video exploded on social media. United Continental Holdings (UAL) market value dropped $250 million in the next day’s trading.

This incident goes to show how one false step can cause major headaches for a brand. And while your company may not have the brand name recognition of United Airlines, there’s something to be learned from their situation.

3 ways employees can help protect your brand story

  1. Share your brand story with employees
    Make sure employees understand that your brand story is more than just the products and services you sell. It encompasses everything customers believe and feel about your business. Take advantage of company gatherings to share your brand story with employees. Make sure they understand your organization’s overall purpose, and what this means to the people you serve.
  2. Task employees with sharing your brand story
    Employees are your brand ambassadors. They can promote (or devalue) your brand by how they interact with people and what they say on social media. So, it’s important employees understand their vital role in communicating your brand story. Give them examples (such as the United Airline story) of how their actions can impact your brand … for better or worse.
  3. Empower employees to use common sense
    Your company has policies and procedures, and employees are expected to abide by those rules. Yet, it’s important to empower supervisors and frontline employees to use common sense.

Getting employees on board after a merger

Companies often spend considerable time educating their target audiences after a merger—but perhaps not so much time educating employees. Even though employees have new business cards or wear new uniforms, they don’t necessarily understand or embrace the merged company’s brand story.

United Airlines has struggled with its image ever since it merged with Continental Airlines in 2010. Perhaps the most recent incident is just one example of employees not knowing what United’s brand story is … or how to communicate it.

VistaComm has 20+ years experience helping agriculture businesses and farm cooperatives develop and share their brand stores. Contact us for ideas to help your business.


Want help sharing the brand story for your ag business?

That’s VistaComm.

START THE CONVERSATION–TALK WITH US TODAY.

Read More Here: 3 Ways Employees Can Help Protect Your Brand—Compliments of United Airlines

Thursday, April 6, 2017

One Simple Digital Marketing Trick You May Have Missed

Download website optimization ebookOk, I’m embarrassed to admit it. But as a journalist rather than a programmer, I used to look at a website, note the link labeled “sitemap” on the page, and think, “What’s the point? Isn’t that what the navigation is for? Why does anyone need a map? What is an XML sitemap?”

News flash. It’s not a map for people, but for bots.

Oh.

XML Sitemaps, and their importance in the world of digital marketing, can still be a mystery to many who enjoy only a casual relationship with the technical side of website development and SEO enhancement. At VistaComm, they are a mandatory addition to every website we create. Here is a quick explanation of what XML Sitemaps are, what they bring to the table and why you should care.

First: What is an XML sitemap?

What is a sitemap? Here’s a basic explanation straight from Google. “A sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to more intelligently crawl your site.”

[caption id="attachment_2532" align="aligncenter" width="608"]what is an XML sitemap Here is an example of an XML sitemap created by YoastSEO[/caption]

 

A sitemap can also provide information about specific pages, such as when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed and the importance of the page relative to others in the site.

Now: Why do you need one?

As in, why is this important. Ultimately, a sitemap helps with search engine optimization because it makes it easier for Google to find out about the content on your site so they can serve it up in the search results.

Here are some of the many other benefits of using an XML sitemap.

  • Content alerts: Search engine rankings are now driven by content. Consistently placing fresh, relevant content on your site improves your visibility. A sitemap notifies Google whenever your site content is modified.
  • Sitemap = roadmap: The whole point of website creation is to be found online, and having an XML sitemap will bring traffic to your site more quickly. This is particularly important for new websites.
  • Emphasize the important: Sitemaps let you assign a priority to your web pages. This means that the pages carrying your most important content will be crawled and indexed faster than those with a lower value.
  • Faster flow: Most content is better fresh, especially news. With a sitemap, spiders will find your fresh content faster...and so will your visitors.
  • Continuing education: You can learn a lot about your visitors by monitoring your sitemap reports. You can track traffic sources, perform keyword searches and pinpoint errors to improve site performance. This information can help you improve your content and attract more traffic.

Creating a sitemap is a routine part of every website we design at VistaComm, but it is only one small part of a comprehensive digital marketing plan that can increase your online impact. For more information about our digital marketing program, contact us today.

Contact us today

Original Post Here: One Simple Digital Marketing Trick You May Have Missed

Friday, March 31, 2017

How You Can Steer Customers to Think Value … Not Just Price

First, a little background: According to the USDA’s February 2017 Farm Income Forecast, net farm income will decline by 8.7% this year. That’s the fourth consecutive year of the downward slide. And last year’s record crops did little to soften the blow for farmers.

So what are farmers doing to “keep the lights on” during this downturn? For starters, they’re looking for ways to spend less and produce more—not an easy formula to master. And they’re likely pushing for lower prices on input costs.

As an ag marketer, that puts you in an awkward position. Do you cut your margins (which are already razor thin) so you can give price-sensitive customers the breaks they want? Or do you hold steady on prices, and search for ways to add more value for customers?

According to Will Secor, A Purdue University ag economist, you might see some short-term gains by dropping prices. But it’s a different story in the long run.

Effect of cutting prices to gain sales during a tough ag economy:

  • Erodes value perceptions of your brand.
  • Reveals just how much margin is built into your prices.
  • Makes it difficult to raise prices in the future.

As an alternative, Secor suggests getting a better understanding of what your customers and prospects find most valuable in the products and services they use. Then adjust your offerings to communicate value during this economic downturn.

The difference between price and value

A cheap price focuses on what your customer pays, not what they get. Whereas value focuses on getting more for the money they spend.

In terms of marketing in agriculture, value means more than the seed, chemicals or feed you’re selling. It means everything that goes with it—expertise, delivery, application, grain marketing and more. And it goes even further than that.

  • There’s value in working with an ag business your farm customers trust.
  • There’s value in doing business with an ag cooperative where farmer members share in profits.
  • There’s value in supporting a local business, which in turn supports local employees and the communities in which they all live.

How to zero in on what your customers value most

According to an Insights from Purdue University article, you should find out what your customers value most about your products or services by asking questions like these:

  1. How do farmers compare product performance versus price? How do volume or quantity discounts figure in?
  2. What is important to farm customers in terms of delivery time, financing, technical support and warranties?
  3. What does service mean to them?
    • Do they see it as traditional services, such as fertilizer applications?
    • Do they want data support and analysis?
  4. Are they loyal to a brand? Which brand? How loyal?
  5. How important are the relationships with their salesperson?

To get an even better understanding of the purchase decision process for agricultural inputs, faculty from Purdue’s Center for Commercial Agriculture have developed a buyer decision specification tool.

Consider using this tool with a cross section of customers. Tabulate the results in order of importance. Then communicate to your customers how your ag business or farm cooperative delivers on these points of value. Get your salespeople on board. Make sure they communicate value face-to-face with customers.

As you face the challenges of yet another annual decline in farm income, it makes sense to rethink how you position your products and services. From a marketing standpoint, this impacts what you say … and how you say it.

VistaComm has helped farm cooperatives and ag businesses for the last 20 years retain … and grow … sales numbers—even during down cycles like the current one. Find out what we offer to support your efforts.

Contact us today

 

See More Here: How You Can Steer Customers to Think Value … Not Just Price

Monday, March 20, 2017

We Love Ag, Yes We Do

If you like to eat, prefer to wear clothes and drive a vehicle, you’re a fan of American agriculture—whether you know it or not. Well, this is the week to join the rest of the nation in making your fond feelings known. March 21 is National Ag Day, falling right in the middle of National Ag Week, March 19-25.

First celebrated in 1973, National Ag Day is about recognizing, and celebrating, the contribution of agriculture to our everyday lives. Every year, ag producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and communities across America join together to highlight the importance of agriculture to our nation and the world.

The National Ag Day program encourages every American to:

  • Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
  • Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

VistaComm is proud to be a part of the agricultural community and to have the privilege of working with so many companies directly involved in the production of food, fiber and renewable energy.

Throughout the week, we'll be sharing a few fun numbers on our Facebook page that help illustrate the diversity, and importance, of the American ag industry. Like our page to follow along!

Learn More Here: We Love Ag, Yes We Do

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Nine Ideas to Promote Your Business and Increase C-Store Traffic

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but convince your pay-at-the-pump customers to enter your store and income will increase. Are you inviting people in?

According to a recent study, customers who paid for gas and drove away told researchers they didn’t need anything inside. You know better, of course, because everybody needs something, and in a small town your store is often the only resource.

So here are six notions for bringing customers indoors and three ways you might encourage a connection in the community’s you serve.

  • What’s not to like? Take a hint from Little Orphan Annie in A Christmas Story and give your Facebook supporters a special reward for loyalty. How about first notice of upcoming sales? A Facebook loyalty club doesn’t stop you from promoting your sale to all customers, but it reinforces a relationship with those who show you a little love.
  • The 360-degree fill. Offer something tasty with a fill-up, like a cookie or a doughnut. Naturally, the customer must come inside to claim that sweet reward and, in general, doughnuts go down better with something to drink. According to a 2015 CSP-FARE State of Foodservice study, retailers believe breakfast items offer the most potential sales growth.
  • It’s easy to get pumped. Chain outlets advertise at the pump. Do the same thing, but in a hometown way. Sharing a localized message could be very impactful with local customers. Just be sure to update your posters often and never leave your signs out in the rain. (What’s your message? See suggestions 4 and 5.)
  • Tell ‘em what’s new. Your marketing plan undoubtedly includes introducing new items in your product mix from time to time. But do you alert customers? Tout a new coffee flavor or anything. “Have you tried our new ____?” (Just because it’s an old tactic doesn’t mean it’s wrong!)
  • And while you’re at it…any improvement deserves a shout-out. “Introducing our new coffee-making system!” “Compliment us on our slushy maker today and your 16-ounce cup is free!” “Now offering fresh fruit! Enjoy a half-price banana with your donut today!”
  • Cultivate core co-op members. During planting season or harvest, put your lunch menu in high gear by taking phone orders for sandwiches. Post your menu and daily specials online, or send them via email and/or text to make it easier for the busy farmers. Also consider adding something extra for farmers, their families and employees. “Free apples for busy farmers today!”
  • Put a face on your support of local events. A sign in the window? Meh, anybody can do that. Help man a booth (always in your logo shirts). Don’t just donate water bottles for a 5K; be there yourself to greet finishers.
  • Serve up commitment. Enlarge on your nominal financial support of youth projects. When there’s a push underway for new uniforms or equipment, encourage customers to match your gift. Tell them you’ll share a percentage of pizza or sandwich sales.
  • What would employees do? Match employees’ personal interests and involvement to your support of local events. If John plans to attend the local car show on his own, pay him the hour or two he’ll spend directing entrants to parking spots. (And again, I say, John ought to wear something that identifies him as your proud employee). The same goes for the 4-H fair or any exciting thing happening in your town.

There are obviously many other ideas you can use to drive traffic into your c-store. Whether you are using point-of-sale promotions at the pump, digital marketing, public relations or direct mail, all can be effective with the right messaging and promotion. Not all promotions are guaranteed to work 100%, but until you’ve tried everything you (and I) can think of, you don’t know. VistaComm has helped cooperatives and local c-store retailers market to their communities for over 20 years. Put our experienced staff to work for you to help drive traffic into your business.

Contact us today

Article Source Here: Nine Ideas to Promote Your Business and Increase C-Store Traffic

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Trusted Advisor—Communicating Value Through Brand Storytelling

While everyone wants to hold the coveted title of the farmer’s “trusted advisor,” the rapid expansion of technology into the world of agriculture is forcing a change from “advisor” to “advisors.” Most agree that precision technology, its application to equipment and inputs, and the data generated by the IoT is where the action will be for the foreseeable future.

Consequently, the sheer volume of knowable information through which producers must now sort virtually guarantees they will need to work with a team of experts—each functioning in a specific role—to successfully run their business.

agronomist advisorKnowing what particular role (or roles) you play in the precision adoption and application process, and aggressively pursuing the knowledge and skilled staff to achieve an edge in your niche, will likely determine future success. Communicating that role through brand storytelling is critical in ensuring your customers and prospects know the value you bring to their operation.

In a recent article in Precision Ag Professional magazine, Darren Goebel, Director of Global Commercial Crop Care for AGCO, outlined some of the roles that various trusted advisors could best serve.

Retailers/Cooperatives. “As precision agriculture evolves, the ag retailer could become the major driving force in this segment. Because retailers have access to crop protection products, seed, fertilizer, and application equipment, they may be in the best place to provide start to finish service. In other words, to ‘just make it work.’”

Consultants. “Their value proposition remains as an unbiased provider of information. I believe consultants can bring together equipment providers, agronomic insights, and the best seed and crop protection options for growers. Consultants may be able to specialize in precision agriculture by carving out an important niche in this space.”

partnering with farmersEquipment dealers. “I believe the equipment companies and dealers that are most successful in the precision agriculture space will be the ones that can provide the best service. Uptime is extremely important to growers, especially with the pressure to have timely planting, fertilizing, and pest control. Dealers that have precision agriculture departments that proactively work with ag retailers, consultants, and growers will be held in high regard among farmers, leading to higher sales. It will likely be difficult for equipment dealers to provide the same quality of prescriptions and agronomic advice as ag retailers, consultants, and seed dealers without significant investment in people resources.”

Seed dealers. “Seed dealers have more information about genetics than any of their cohorts, and they have the information much earlier in the hybrid’s or variety’s lifecycle than anyone else. As variable-rate, multi-hybrid, and multi-variety become the norm, the seed dealer will play a more and more important role in data-driven decision-making to ensure accurate placement by soil texture, drainage class, and productivity level.”

So, what’s your strength?

Where do you fit into the picture? Are you strong in one of the niches above, several…or none? What you have done as a business to embrace the precision revolution, strengthen your position in your marketing footprint and evolve with technology will likely determine your success as the next generation transitions into leadership roles on the farm.

Feeling as comfortable as possible with your position? Great. There’s one more consideration. Do your current and potential customers know what you have to offer, what sets you apart, how good you are and, most importantly, how you can solve their problems? This is all a part of the brand story you need to tell.

Use brand storytelling to reach farmers

This is the point at which technical expertise and strong communication must mesh. How are you letting your customer know when you have a new product, service or technical expert to offer? Are you using the appropriate channels to connect with all segments of your audience?

According to a recent study* of agricultural producers, farmers who are learning about a new product or farming technique tend to turn first to university and extension advisers. When the time comes to purchase that product or adopt that technique, they attach more trust to ag retailers and dealers. Overall, the top influencer in a producer’s decision-making process was their agronomist, followed closely by their retailer or dealer.

In this age of instant connections, information is the new capital. Earn—or cement—your status as trusted advisors by providing the actionable knowledge ag producers are looking for to inform their decisions. We can help you with the what, when and how.

Contact us today

*“Future of Communications Audience Insights Study,” Bader Rutter

Originally Published Here: Trusted Advisor—Communicating Value Through Brand Storytelling